I grew up not alone, but lonely, in a largely conservative small town in south India. Television was a novelty in those times and the programming on it was quite limited and heavily controlled by the government. Books were really my refuge and even at a very young age I had an extremely well-defined sense of what was wrong or right and I am quite ashamed to admit that at that time I had little flexibility about it.
But that is a topic for a different time. What I wanted to write about was that I would often find myself at odds with my friends, family and the society in general about what I considered right or wrong. For most of my life I have not been able to understand the roots of my strong convictions as my reading at that time could not have covered everything I was opinionated about, nor did I have a mentor through those years who could put those ideas into my head.
While reading the ‘Tibetan Book of Living & Dying,’ the concept of reincarnation and the carrying over of key values rang a familiar note in my mind. Was it possible that I am carrying over a value system from a previous life? As someone who does not believe in reincarnation, it is a difficult concept for me to agree with. On the other hand, it is also not quite possible to accurately ascertain this, as opinions, unlike some skills, can be acquired subconsciously at any stage of life.
I guess the moot point at the end of the day is that your core values exist within you in some form all the time. Like any skill, they have to be worked on, made sharper and clearer and developed over time. But it is difficult to acquire a value system that is not yours over time. You could, probably, fake it, but I doubt if it would ever be intrinsic to you.
The interesting question, then, is: do you believe most people have a value system at the their core that is more good than bad?